By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For The Sun
"You were a great wrestler from start to finish and millions of your fans all around the world will never let that be forgotten. Maybe it's not important, almost kind of meaningless, but I know you were proud of your accomplishments, as was I, and you were one of the greatest athletes to ever set foot in a wrestling ring."
Bret Hart, Calgary Sun (May 31, 1999)
A day doesn't go by when I don't think of my brother Owen a hundred times over. I sure miss him. The blue-grey colour of the sky and the wet smell of spring suddenly brings it all back to me. I'll apologize now if people are tired of hearing about how all my thoughts, sad and happy, in relation to the profession Owen and I loved so much bring him closer to me.
Different wrestlers have different abilities. Some guys have unique or great bodies. Some are entertaining and gifted talkers. Some are fantastic bumpers. But being a great worker was always the most important quality that meant the most. I believe I was a great worker and all I can say is it takes one to know one. Owen was a great worker.
A great worker is all of the above, but more. He is real, he is credible, he knows all the holds and when to apply them. He gives his all night in and night out -- big crowd or small. Someone who will protect his opponent at all times even if it endangers himself. He never panics, puts his heart into every match and despite all the preconceived notions, can make a true fan believe, for that instant, that professional wrestling is real. Owen was all of these things -- and more.
I remember, in September 1993, when Vince McMahon told me that he wanted me to wrestle one of my brothers. His first choice was my much older brother, Bruce, who, as the story was going to go, would appear out of nowhere and challenge me to a match. I'd refuse but Owen would step up to Bruce's challenge whereas Bruce would so severely annihilate Owen that I would have to step in and tell my bully brother that I would face him for what he did to Owen and our angle would build from there.
I sat listening to this in deep thought and finally I told Vince McMahon that if -- and it was a big "if" -- I do wrestle any of my brothers it, plain and simply, had to be Owen. Bruce had pretty much already hung up his tights, he'd just had major reconstructive knee surgery and his wrestling days were over -- especially for him to step into the main event slot. The WWF didn't like the idea of Owen being the brother I'd wrestle but I simply refused to do it any other way. Without agreeing to anything, I asked them to let me talk it over with Owen and see if either of us even cared to do a brother versus brother storyline. We were always close brothers but we had become even closer during the past few years.
I told Owen all about it and explained how I refused to do it with anyone but him and even so I felt that it reflected badly on us as brothers and as a family and wouldn't sit well with Mom and Dad. I was just not comfortable doing it.
The next day, Owen came to me and said he was desperately in need of any kind of a break, that it was just wrestling and that it was a dream of his to work with me. He pointed out that it was well understood that I was the best worker in the business and why should everyone else get to work with me and make main event money and he couldn't? Owen looked at me and said, "I'd really like you to do it." I saw clearly that he was so right. So I agreed but asked that out of respect to the fans, we would play it "old school".
We would not ride together, hang out, or fraternize to make the storyline believable -- something most wrestlers at that time started not giving a damn about. We also agreed that no matter what happened, we would make peace on TV someday.
Well, it started out on March 20, 1994, at Wrestlemania 10, where Owen won a shocking upset over me in what turned out to be one of my favourite matches of all time, overshadowing, in my mind, my World title victory in another match later that same night. The match with Owen was so dramatic, so solid, so real. I can remember wrestlers, fans and especially WWF officials telling me how Owen was finally starting to get it and I told them, "he was always that good, you just never took the time to see it."
We wrestled almost every single night for over a year, selling out all over the world -- Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Phillipines, Guam, India, South Africa and all over the Middle East. There were no broken noses or blown knees and neither of us groaned at the thought of working. I can really only remember how much fun we both had and I can still remember the day Owen came up to me with this sad look and said "This is our last match tonight. They're going to put me in tag teams after this." It saddened us both to move on but that's the nature of the business.
Owen used to enjoy coming over to my house for cappuccino and we'd laugh and talk. When we got home after our final match, I bought him the nicest cappuccino machine I could find and I took it over to his house along with a note that said:
"As a sign of my appreciation and gratitude for the wonderful job you've done, I picked you up a small gift. It has truly been a pleasure working with ya' and I'm sure going to miss all the fun and high energy you brought with you to each and every match we had. I always knew you were a great and gifted worker and I'm very proud of you. I'm happy to have helped in any way to bring your talent to the forefront where it always belonged. Owen, you're all pro. Good luck in the future, call on me when you need me -- and come back in one piece.
Maybe now people will understand.